Akshiv Bansal, BASC '18, Engineering Physics

Akshiv Bansal
“During my degree, I got the impression that it will not be pure facts which I remember, but rather it is the overarching ideologies of engineering that will be everlasting.”

In 2013, I received a Major Entrance Scholarship leading me to UBC. In first year I joined UBC Solar (a student-led design team that builds solar-powered cars), which I would go on to co-captain; this experience helped me apply the knowledge I learned in the classroom. Being an environmentalist, I worked as the sustainability projects coordinator for the AMS while the Nest was commissioned. As I grew closer to the engineering community, I wanted to improve it. I became the Engineering Physics student association president and coordinated student input to the Hebb renewal project, I actively participated in EUS council/committees, and recently was a delegate at the Conference on Diversity in Engineering. Finally, I rounded out my last year working on a capstone project, in collaboration with the UBC Digital Health Innovation Lab to design a low-cost syringe pump with the aim of providing anesthesia in developing nations.

Why did you choose engineering?

I wanted study in a discipline that would give me a broad toolset to work on problems I consider interesting and important. My interests are centered around renewable energy, space exploration, robotics and AI. When I was thinking about university, it seemed an engineering education could help me contribute in those fields. Additionally, I didn’t really know what kinds of industries would emerge over the course of my career, so I wanted a versatile education. Studying engineering was a way of betting on technology dominating the future and leaving myself enough room to learn about new fields as they emerged.

What has made your time at UBC the most memorable?

I love the community I found at UBC. Engineering Physics has been great in that respect — from working on two capstones and a robot project with some of my best friends to being president of Engineering Physics Student Association. Beyond my program, working on UBC Solar (a solar car racing tournament) and with the EUS gave me some incredible moments and excellent friends. The daily activities of going to class, doing project work, and extra circular work was enjoyable because of the people around me.

What have you learned in engineering that is most valuable?

My experience at UBC has involved many different kinds of projects, extensively studying science and math, and working with my fellow engineering students. Throughout my degree, I have found that it won’t be the pure facts I remember, but rather the overarching ideologies of engineering that stick in my mind.

Estimation: this is critical when evaluating both technical and non-technical claims. It allows you to quickly get a sense of what is possible, or on the edge of possible.

Iteration: understanding the engineering design process and that it is applicable beyond engineering problems, providing an effective toolset to handle any situation where there is a large set of alternatives.

Reduction: taking any complicated problem and breaking it into its smallest components, then examining each aspect from first principles and trying to build every part making as few assumptions as possible.

What has been your most memorable/valuable non-academic experience studying engineering at UBC?

Getting involved in sustainability initiatives on campus was a tremendously valuable experience; it connected me with people from many different disciplines who were passionate about environmentalism. Working on various projects through the AMS, the EUS, and Common Energy, taught me how to work with different organizations and with people from different backgrounds. The work was satisfying and I made lasting friendships.

What advice would you give a student considering engineering?

Figure out if the work you would eventually do with an engineering degree is right for you. Look at the long-term potential of industries that interest you and reach out to people in those fields to get a sense of what working there is actually like. If your request is simple enough, even the busiest of professionals will take time out of their schedules to help you understand their profession. I think new engineering students should remember that engineering school, the practice of engineering, and engineering work will all be vastly different experiences. They shouldn’t necessarily treat their performance in one of those experiences as a good indicator of their potential in the other two.